I spent most of the day at a regional conference in Durham where we got to hear about the latest news in the campaigns for the local Police and Crime Commissioner elections as well as receiving an update on all things EU from our MEP Martin Callanan.
Martin eloquently discussed some of the complexities surrounding the eurozone crisis but what really stood out for me was hearing about the EC's plans to demand an eyewatering increase in the EU budget of 6.8%. At a time when national governments are having to severely cut their cloth at home with big spending cuts all round (including, incidentally, France where M. Hollande, elected on an anti-austerity ticket, has introduced the most austere budget in French history, surpassing anything M. Sarkozy could do) it shows how out of touch Mr Van Rompuy and the European Commission are with ordinary citizens. While we at home are having to deal variously with pension scheme contribution increases, deferred retirement ages, cuts to benefits, loss of child support, etc., etc., it comes across as simply insulting that the EC thinks it can demand such an increase. When public sector workers are facing another year of below-inflation pay increases, the EC wants a whopping 6.8% increase from us all. I trust that our government will veto any above inflation budget increases.
Closer to home, it was good to hear Phil Butler discuss his vision for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Police. Phil is a 30-years time-served police officer who now works as a forensic accountant. Phil has a track record in banging up serious criminals and he really understands how policing works. His campaign is focusing on how he would take Northumbria Police forward, and I urge you to compare his views with those of the other candidates. If you don't know much about Phil then I recommend taking a look at his web site at which you can also sign up for his Twitter and Facebook feeds. If you prefer something more paper-based, then read the 8-page booklet that has been dropping through letter boxes recently.
Speaking of which, after getting home from today's conference I nipped out to deliver another 120 or so of Phil's leaflets as well as my own campaign leaflet. Residents in Mickley should already have received theirs and many in Riding Mill will be getting theirs this weekend. Many of you in Stocksfield have already received one, but if you haven't yet, then I will be popping one through your letter box sometime over the next week or so in time for you to read about Phil before the election on 15 November. If you want to know more about the role of the PCCs, then the Home Office web page on the subject is a handy port of call.